Monday, June 22, 2020

the ottawa small press book fair : home edition #4 : Carol Stephen,

Carol A. Stephen’s poetry appears in Poetry Is Dead, June 2017 and numerous print publications, including Wintergreen Studios chapbooks Sound Me When I’m Done and Teasing the Tongue.  Online poems appear at Silver Birch Press, Topology Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, and With Painted Words.  Carol won 3rd prize in the CAA National Capital Writing Contest, and was featured in Tree’s Hot Ottawa Voices.  She served on the board for Canadian Authors Association-NCR and co-directed Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series.  Carol has five chapbooks, two released in 2018: Unhook, catkin press, Carleton Place and Lost Silence of the Small, Local Gems Press, Long Island, NY.  In 2019, Winning the Lottery, Surviving Clostridium Difficile was published by Crowe

Q: Tell me about your writing. How long have you been publishing, and what got you started?

I've been writing off and on for decades, but got serious about it in 2006. I need to be able to write. I am compelled to write, and in times of worry it is the one thing that helps the worry to subside.  But that's writing. And you asked about publishing.

In 2011, I set up Quillfyre Publishing to produce a chapbook, Tangled Strands, for poems from A Canadian Authors Association poetry circle. The following year, I published my own work in Architectural Variations. (A copy of that book is in the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, along with a copy of a poem I wrote about a now-vanished small wetland area and its sign: No Swimming - Alligators.

Since several friends already have established imprints, most of my own chapbooks appear under those imprints.  But I've been active in the poetry community in and around Ottawa since 2006, and at times have served various writing organizations. I've been a member of the Ottawa branch of Canadian Authors Association, on the board of Tree, a co-director of Tree, a former manager of the Ottawa area branch for The Ontario Poetry Society, and I am a Bywords poetry selector.

Q: How many times have you exhibited at the ottawa small press fair? How do you find the experience? 

I've exhibited at the fair three times in the past, when there was new work available to offer. But I have attended quite a few more times as a customer.

Q: Would you have had something specific for this spring’s fair? Are you still doing that? How does the lack of spring fair this year effect how or what you might be producing?

This year, I have several of my poetry chapbooks available. My latest book, an combination of essays and poems, Winning the Lottery, will be on offer as well.  Other titles available include Architectural Variations, Ink Dogs in my Shoes, and two chapbooks published in 2018: Unhook, Lost Silence of the Small. I still have a few copies of two collaborative chapbooks with JC Sulzenko, Breathing Mutable Air and Slant of Light.

Q: How are you, as literary writer, approaching the myriad shut-downs? Is everything on hold, or are you pushing against the silences, whether in similar or alternate ways than you might have prior to the pandemic? How are you getting your publications out into the world?

The shutdown has certainly changed life as we know it!  And it makes it difficult for writers to get their books into the hands of readers.  Other than running a single ad on Facebook during a one-time credit offer, I have not been marketing my work. There is a diffidence there that I still haven't quite worked through, I guess.

Q: Have you done anything in terms of online or virtual launches since the pandemic began? Have you attended or participated in others? How are you attempting to connect to the larger literary community?

I am actually far more active in the writing world right now, partly because even though I live outside Ottawa, with events moved online I can once again take part without having to drive home at midnight. ! During shutdown, I have been attending Tree via Zoom (they are doing a great job! Kudos to Ben Ladouceur and Stephen Brockwell!) , and Writerly Love, a writing community under the wise guidance of Rachel Thompson, who edits for Room.  One great thing about the shutdown is the newly available reading series from coast to coast that no longer are too far away to attend. (Although often a bit late in the evening!) I am trying to attend book launches as I can though, both to be supportive, and to keep that electricity of being with other writers and poets that just doesn't exist otherwise. I really miss that part of being on the Board of Tree. I hope that continues after everything is opened up again. It has provided a way to attend launches for new books. I have also participated in the e-book offerings by Jay MillAr on Book*hug. The good thing about e-books is the space they take. But they still don't really replace a good hard (or soft!) copy book. There have also been some interesting Zoom events from the OPL recently. I am surprised at just how active the virtual writing scene has become.

Q: What is your most recent book? How might folk be able to order copies? 

My most recent book is Winning the Lottery, surviving Clostridium Difficile. It's about surviving a life-threatening infection and learning to live with an altered anatomy due to an ileostomy. One of the poems from this book was published in the Let Them See You Sweat issue of Poetry is Dead magazine, Spring-Summer 2017. Descriptions of my poetry chapbooks are available at Copies of them, as well as Winning the Lottery, are available from me, by dropping a line to Winning the Lottery is also available from Amazon.

Q: What are you working on now?

JC and I have been seeking a publisher for Breath of Sea and Sky, our collaborative collection of ekphrastic poetry, and that is ongoing, but we took advantage of the shutdown to look at it again and revamp it a bit. For myself, I have been writing a lot of pandemic-related poems, and submitted them to calls, and poems about the dystopian world just south of us.

Because I am a prolific writer, though, I am now finding it hard to choose which poems I want to send out as a full collection. That had to wait last year, but I am back on that project as well.  And, I'm also enrolled in a month-long workshop through the International Women's Writing Guild called Writing your Tomorrows: Tools for Women in Transition.

1 comment:

ceeess said...

Thanks for this, and all you do, rob.